Decor, dog fights and ‘I dos’: The Prime Minister’s rollercoaster week

Coronavirus (PA Wire)
22:44pm, Sat 29 May 2021
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Boris Johnson’s reported wedding tops off a bumpy week that saw him savaged by his former right-hand man, condemned for Islamophobia and criticised for his laissez-faire approach to his finances.

Here is a breakdown of the many fronts the Prime Minister has been fighting.

– May 24: 

“To be or not to be” in the Cobra meeting, that was the question Mr Johnson had to face.

No 10 was forced to deny that claims published in the Sunday Times that Mr Johnson skipped emergency planning sessions in the early days of the pandemic to work on a biography of William Shakespeare.

The paper claimed the PM had been frantically working on the tome because he needed the money to fund his divorce from Marina Wheeler, his second wife.

Asked if the Prime Minister had spent time on the book, his official spokesman said: “No, not that I’m aware of.”

– May 25:

Mr Johnson was forced to eat humble pie over comments in a 2018 Daily Telegraph column claiming women who wore the burka look like “letter boxes” and “bank robbers”.

An independent review into alleged Islamophobia and discrimination in the Conservative Party found the PM’s comments gave the impression the Tories are “insensitive to Muslim communities”.

Mr Johnson said he was “sorry for any offence taken” over the comments, telling the investigation: “Would I use some of the offending language from my past writings today? Now that I am Prime Minister, I would not.”

– May 26: 

Mr Johnson’s embittered former chief adviser Dominic Cummings was out to do as much damage as possible as he gave evidence to MPs about the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a marathon seven-hour sitting of the Science and Technology Committee, Mr Cummings said he regarded Mr Johnson as “unfit for the job” of Prime Minister.

Dominic Cummings quizzed by MPs (PA Wire)

Mr Cummings repeatedly referred to Carrie Symonds as the PM’s “girlfriend” rather than “fiancee” – perceived by some as a sly dig at the woman who reportedly helped force him out of his job.

The architect of the Vote Leave campaign also seemed determined to do his best to sink Health Secretary Matt Hancock, saying he had repeatedly called for him to be sacked.

He claimed Mr Hancock had lied about his ability to deliver on his policy of carrying out 100,000 Covid-19 tests a day in April 2020, branding it “criminal, disgraceful behaviour”.

– May 27:

Thursday was a day of fire fighting for the PM, as he insisted the pandemic response had been an “incredibly difficult series of decisions, none of which we have taken lightly”.

The PM said: “At every stage we have been governed by a determination to protect life.”

Asked whether he said he would rather see “bodies pile high” than order a third lockdown, Mr Johnson said: “I have already made my position very clear on that point.

Dominic Cummings quizzed by MPs (PA Wire)

Downing Street denied Mr Johnson was “obsessed with the media”, as claimed by Mr Cummings.

Mr Johnson’s spokesman also denied Ms Symonds had tried to fill jobs with her friends, saying: “All appointments made in No 10 are done in the normal way, that’s always been the case.”

– May 28:

Mr Johnson’s “John Lewis nightmare” continued after the new adviser on ministerial standards said he had “unwisely” allowed the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat to go ahead without “more rigorous regard for how this would be funded”.

Some reports suggest the upgrades hit the £200,000 mark, with Tory peer Lord Brownlow telling Cabinet Office officials he had settled an invoice for the works on the flat directly with the supplier.

Carrie Symonds role inquiry call (PA Wire)

But Lord Geidt, the independent adviser on ministers’ interests, found the PM knew “nothing about” payments for the work until reports surfaced in the media.

The peer said Mr Johnson should have been “more rigorous” about the funding of the renovations.

– May 29:Ms Symonds shook off the girlfriend label for good on Saturday morning, according to reports in the Mail on Sunday and the Sun.

Reports that Prime Minister and Carrie Symonds secretly wed (PA Wire)

The pair are said to have exchanged vows in Westminster Cathedral in front of a small group of close friends and family.

Downing Street would not comment on the reports, and the Sun reported even senior aides were totally unaware the couple were about to tie the knot.

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